COUNTDOWN TO CAMP: Anton Khudobin
COUNTDOWN TO CAMP: Anton Khudobin
From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2017-18 Bruins. Today: Anton Khudobin.
There was some speculation that the Bruins would chase a backup goaltender in free agency earlier this summer. Instead, the B’s decided to stand pat with their goaltending depth behind Tuukka Rask. That means that Khudobin, 31, will get another season as Rask’s understudy with a chance to improve on last season’s inconsistencies. The Bruins will need a great deal from their Russian backup after finally coming to peace last season with the fact that Rask is at his best playing in 55-60 games with plenty of work for the backup. Provided Khudobin is the player that finished up strongly last season, it could be a very good year for the two-time member of the Bruins.
What happened last year
The Bruins struck out in free agency and inked Khudobin to a two-year deal prior to last season. They hoped that bringing in a comfortable, established NHL presence would stabilize their backup goalie situation. The final results were decent enough with Khudobin finishing 7-6-1, with 2.64 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in 16 appearances for the Black and Gold. But Khudobin didn’t get his second win for the Bruins until February and he needed multiple trips to Providence before things finally clicked in for him. The 3.06 GAA and .885 save percentage prior to the NHL All-Star break tell the story of a truly rotten first half for Khudobin in Boston, and forced the Bruins to play Rask more than they probably wanted to in an injury-plagued season for him. That being said, Khudobin finally got his game together right around the time of the Bruins coaching change and had two of his biggest games when the B’s needed him most with late-season wins over the Islanders and Blackhawks that helped Boston punch their playoff ticket. Clearly, Khudobin needs to be better this season, but his late season surge was encouraging to the Black and Gold.
Questions to be answered this season:
Can Khudobin give the Bruins the 20-25 quality games that Boston is going to need from Rask’s understudy? This is the biggest question facing the Russian goaltender as the Bruins also signed Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre to two-year contracts as insurance policies in case Khudobin hits a wall again this season. The Bruins gave Khudobin a vote of confidence by not going outside the organization for a proven, established NHL backup when they certainly could have given his inconsistencies. Now, it’s his turn to pay back that confidence by having a strong season supporting Rask in a tandem that should be one of Boston’s strengths this season. Things are set up for Khudobin to be successful and he’ll get plenty of playing time if he gets off to a good start. It’s just up to him to perform like he did in the second half of the year when he sported a 2.21 GAA and a .922 save percentage.
In their own words
"I think that the finish was really strong, and I wouldn’t say that the start [to my season] was bad. I just didn’t get the wins. I didn’t think that I played really bad, or whatever. I just didn’t get the results. So it’s not the question to me that I’ll be back here or no. I have a contract, so I guess it’s not a question to me. I will be happy to be back here.” –Khudobin, speaking on Bruins breakup day last season
Any NHL team that wants to be in the playoffs needs at least a .500 record from their backup goaltender and realistically needs about 10 wins from him. Last season, the Bruins barely got into the postseason with seven wins out of Khudobin, but they had to overwork Rask in order to get there. This left Rask as a shell of himself in the middle of the season and he ended needing offseason groin surgery after playing in 64 games and finishing up with a strong playoff kick. That can’t happen again this season if they want the most out of their No. 1 goalie, so Khudobin needs to step up and make certain that does his job consistently while getting wins. Everybody knows that the talent is there. He has proven in the past that he can work very well with Rask in an NHL tandem. This is a big season for Khudobin if he wants to remain in the NHL as a viable backup. The good thing is that the opportunity will be there for him to seize it for the Black and Gold, and there isn’t expected to be any kind of a backup goalie competition in training camp. This is Khudobin’s job to hang onto.